Meanwhile in the Real World, California Shudders

I had a great time at the convention, despite the eight hour resolution committee meeting and the fuss arising from that. I am pleased with the results of the convention. I’d like to second all the praise for John Hanna and add a hat tip to the CDP folks who staffed the committee, they did an amazing job with the resolutions committee.  I think there are a few changes that I’d like to see for the committee, namely a meal break during the eight hour meetings, but overall, the process was smooth.

But in the real world, “smooth” is not a term that can be applied well to California’s situation.  The signs are everywhere, all across the state. But nowhere has been hit harder, and could less afford such a blow than the Imperial Valley.  The LA Times takes a look at the region today, and the state of the Valley is far from strong.

“The valley has never seen things this bad, never,” said Roy Buckner, Imperial County assessor and a lifelong resident of Brawley. “This is the worst.”


Name the state statistic, and Imperial County (population: 172,000) is usually near the top or the bottom, whichever is worse: per capita income, welfare recipients, families below the poverty line, elderly living in poverty and so on.

From 1983 to 1999, while unemployment statewide averaged 7%, unemployment in Imperial County was 27%. Last year, the county’s year-end average was the highest in the state. In March, the unemployment rate was 25.1%, the highest in the United States for any area with at least 50,000 people.

(LAT 4/27/2009)

I doubt I really need to once again say that cutting state services at this time is exactly the wrong way to go about it.  It’s been said already by people more important that me, from Paul Krugman to the President. Yet, it can hardly be overemphasized that we have yet to hit bottom.  There will be more pain, and efforts to move money forward are misguided at best, deadly at worst.

The Imperial Valley itself bears a greater burden than most areas of the state.  It had far less leeway, as its economy was already weak.  Unemployment has always been high.  But one of the things that I learned from my trip to India and my efforts to learn more about the country is that labor cannot be considered something to be supported.  The Imperial Valley has a workforce that can be tapped as we move forward with the transition to the more realistic economy of the post-Bush era.  

Yet if we fail to take advantage of our resources, and of this historic time, we will continue to deal with the same problems.  Over and over again, we are pushed to make decisions that are penny wise and pound foolish, and it is places like Imperial Valley that pay for it.